Which watch brand debuted the world’s first wristwatch minute repeater?
Would you be surprised if the answer is Omega? Well, technically, it is correct. However, the more precise answer is Louis Brandt.
This is actually a difficult question and it is just like asking: When was Omega founded?
The history of Omega dates back to 1848 when Louis Brandt (1825 to 1879) establishes an assembly workshop or comptoir d’establissage in La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland.
It was only in 1877 that Louis Brandt created the company Louis Brandt & Fils with his son, Louis-Paul.
After his passing in 1879, his sons Louis-Paul and César assumed control of the company and transformed it into a manufacturer of in-house movements.
Their company made movements and trademarked their mechanical calibres under names such as Louis Brandt, Gurzelen and Labrador.
In 1889 and with an annual production of 100,000 units, Louis Brandt was then Switzerland’s largest single watch manufacturer.
While Louis Brandt’s first few brands were Jura, Patria and Helvetia, it was a movement that would become world-famous – Omega. In 1894, their Omega calibre was produced.
It had useful features such as time setting with the crown and was known for its “relatively modest price”, according to the book, Omega: A Journey Through Time by Marco Richon.
“The movement was so good that the name [of the company] was changed to Omega,” says David Ponzo, Vice President, Omega Southeast Asia.
Two years prior to the launch of the Omega calibre, the Louis Brandt company had scored another coup – their 1892 launch of the world’s first wristwatch minute repeater.
The minute repeater movement was made by Audemars Piguet. This watch is now part of Omega’s museum collection.
A minute repeater chimes the time on demand. Upon activation, it sounds low-pitched chimes (for the hours) followed by double chimes (for the quarters) and finally high pitched chimes (for the minutes).
How was the chiming of minute repeaters of the past? Well, here is our TimeWerke treat: we actually recorded the chiming of Louis Brandt’s minute repeater of 1892. [Heartfelt special thanks to David Ponzo and Petros Protopapas for making this possible.] In other words, the world’s first wristwatch minute repeater which still works.
Unfortunately, it was not recorded in a sound room but in an open area so there will be some background “noise” but bear in mind that this is not from the watch movement. Instead, focus on the chiming after the initial click from the activation of the minute repeater.
Do remember to turn up the volume and simply click on the play button below to experience the chimes others (the Brandt brothers included) had heard more than 120 years ago:
The time indicated on the watch is eight past 10 so you will only be able to listen to the hour and minute chimes (and not the quarters).
This wristwatch may have been a world’s first in 1892 or 122 years ago and it is remains a “first” for those listening to these chimes for the very first time.
Ok, the vintage minute repeater movement was not made by Omega but there is actually a moral to this story. “Movements always play an important role for the brand,” explains Ponzo. “For example, Omega introduced the Co-Axial movement in 1999.
“Now we have the Master Co-Axial calibres which come with a four year warranty. When you think about quality and technology, it is unbeatable,” Ponzo highlights.
The 2014 examples of Omega timepieces with the Master Co-Axial calibres include the Seamaster Aqua Terra and the Seamaster 300.
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